11 Oct 2013 Once is unusual, twice is a trend
A couple of months ago I was looking at a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) issued by a London Borough. It contained something that I had not seen before – a mandatory requirement for two references to be sent directly to the authority, by the referees, as part of the PQQ submission. Failure to persuade a customer to do this meant automatic exclusion for the potential supplier from any further participation. I assumed that the buyer had experienced a brainstorm but then it happened again with a different local authority from a different part of the country.
The most recent requirement read: “ Please instruct your chosen referee to return the completed form by the PQQ deadline submission to the email address on the reference. If [-] does not receive two references then the threshold will not be met”.
Seemingly this is not a bright idea by one brainstorming buyer but is something that someone, somewhere is promoting as a wizard wheeze for thinning out the field at the PQQ stage. It is an innovation which needs to be stopped.
I understand that buyers need to manage competitive processes and that this is more straightforward if the number of bidders can be limited. What I don’t understand is why some buyers have got it into their heads that requiring interested suppliers to “instruct” third parties take time out to prepare something for a process in which those third parties have no interest, as a precondition of entry to a competition, is a good or sensible thing.
A potential bidder has no power to “instruct” its existing customers to comply with what a random buyer wants and will be reluctant to dip into the well of goodwill too often.
Of course, taking up references or undertaking site visits is normal and accepted later in the process when the competition is down to the last surviving bidders, each of which has a fighting chance of winning the business.
But requiring that a referee do something, merely to help a supplier have access to the potential to be selected to participate in a competition is an absurdity. It effectively restricts access to opportunities when the whole thrust of public procurement policy is to do precisely the opposite. It is also an abuse and, sadly, symptomatic of the arrogant disregard for the real world which some buyers continue to exhibit.
Ian Burdon can be found on twitter @IanBurdon